, Volume 5, Issue 2, pp 85-98
Date: 12 Apr 2013

The loop hypothesis: contribution of early formed specific non-local interactions to the determination of protein folding pathways

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The extremely fast and efficient folding transition (in seconds) of globular proteins led to the search for some unifying principles embedded in the physics of the folding polypeptides. Most of the proposed mechanisms highlight the role of local interactions that stabilize secondary structure elements or a folding nucleus as the starting point of the folding pathways, i.e., a “bottom–up” mechanism. Non-local interactions were assumed either to stabilize the nucleus or lead to the later steps of coalescence of the secondary structure elements. An alternative mechanism was proposed, an “up–down” mechanism in which it was assumed that folding starts with the formation of very few non-local interactions which form closed long loops at the initiation of folding. The possible biological advantage of this mechanism, the “loop hypothesis”, is that the hydrophobic collapse is associated with ordered compactization which reduces the chance for degradation and misfolding. In the present review the experiments, simulations and theoretical consideration that either directly or indirectly support this mechanism are summarized. It is argued that experiments monitoring the time-dependent development of the formation of specifically targeted early-formed sub-domain structural elements, either long loops or secondary structure elements, are necessary. This can be achieved by the time-resolved FRET-based “double kinetics” method in combination with mutational studies. Yet, attempts to improve the time resolution of the folding initiation should be extended down to the sub-microsecond time regime in order to design experiments that would resolve the classes of proteins which first fold by local or non-local interactions.

Special Issue: Protein-Protein and Protein-Ligand Interactions in Dilute and Crowded Solution Conditions. In Honor of Allen Minton’s 70th Birthday